‘Golden Boy’: CBS Shifts Gears with a Character-Driven Cop Show

by | February 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM | Golden Boy, Interviews, Midseason 2013

Walter Clark Jr. (Theo James, left) is partnered with and mentored by experienced veteran Detective Don Owen (Chi McBride, right) in the new CBS drama "Golden Boy." (Photo: Warwick Saint/CBS)

CBS is known for its procedural dramas, with shows like the top-rated “NCIS,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Person of Interest” and “Hawaii Five-0,” so it should come as no surprise that the Eye Network is going to introduce a new police drama in 2013.

What makes “Golden Boy” different is the series is character-driven rather than case driven.

“I started 17 years ago on ‘NYPD Blue,’” says creator and executive producer Nicholas Wootton. “What worked great about that show is it was a show about its time. Det. Andy Sipowicz [Dennis Franz] was a character people related to. There was something fascinating about a character who could make mistakes and be redeemed. I thought if I ever did a cop show, it would be one in which the character finds redemption.”

Add “Golden Boy” to Your XFINITY Queue

Premiering on Feb. 26, “Golden Boy” is the story of Walter William Clark Jr. (Theo James, of “Downton Abbey” Mr. Pamuk fame), who has been a member of the NYPD for three years when a heroic action on his part starts his meteoric rise within the force until the point seven years later when he becomes the youngest police commissioner in the history of New York City.

Want to know more? Read on to find out what makes it a show to watch.

The mentor/mentee relationship between Clark and his partner Detective Don Owen (Chi McBride) is one of the high points of the series: After Clark’s heroic deed, he is told that he can have any job on the police force that he wants. Despite being advised against it, he insists on being assigned to the homicide squad where no one wants to partner with him. He is assigned to Don Owen, an older detective who is seriously considering retirement — and in the beginning, Clark is very disappointed by his assignment. But as the episodes progress, that slowly changes.

Watch the Pilot Episode of “Golden Boy” Before It Premieres on TV:

“I have a great deal of affection for Theo,” McBride says. “He is an incredible actor and wildly talented. When you develop genuine affection for someone — at least for me — it comes through on the screen if you let it. If you just be and don’t act. There are a lot of parallels between real and [reel]. I took him out for his first cigar. This guy is my partner. We are friends off camera and the affection shows.”

“[The relationship] was something that developed naturally from when we started the pilot,” James says.”There was a synergy between us. A little art imitating life. I am a young English punk coming over and Chi is a veteran. There is a lot we could learn from each other and that element I really love — Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke. Chi’s character is not flawless either. You see through the series he can make mistakes. He has given up and I am bringing out the beast. He is tempering my morality, so I use the law for the purpose of good.”

In addition to “NYPD,” “The Social Network” was an inspiration for the series: Watching “The Social Network,” Wootton thought that Mark Zuckerberg, as portrayed in the movie, was a good example of what it means to be a modern, young male with drive and ambition, thoughtless and forward-thinking with an “I don’t care who gets burned” attitude.

“A young man who has this ferocious ambition and always wants more than what is on his plate,” Wootton says. “I was introduced to Greg Berlanti and discussed the idea with him. He jumped on it and he loved it. He brought to the table the idea of knowing where this kid is going … What is the thing he could become? What if we tell the story from the end point? It instantly makes it about the characters. That was the genesis of it. A young, tough, son of a bitch, who had a lofty position but paid a lot along the way.”

“Golden Boy” will be sequential: There are seven years between Clark’s heroic act and being named police commissioner. In the first season, everything that happens takes place during his first year as a homicide detective. If the series goes on, each season will reflect the next year in Clark’s life.

“Pretty much everything we talk about in the pilot takes place during the series,” Wootton continues. “We follow through on that. I know exactly where these things happen. I know where certain characters die. I know one thing: Theo doesn’t die.”

Is it realistic that Clark could become police commissioner at such a young age? Since the position is one done by appointment, the answer is yes. Another young, real-life New York police commissioner was Theodore Roosevelt. Some people are more suited to the job as we have seen in present years; others are in jail. So which one will Clark be?

“He is quite political,” Wootton says. “You see instances in the future where he is devious. We see him learning the lessons that Chi’s character teaches him. Then we see him do things that are politically vicious. Theo’s character suffers great loss, which we see this season, which is where his political drive comes from. There is no sense of the Clark character wanting to become the police commissioner. That develops later. You see things clicking into place. He is not the nicest guy, but he is a man who has matured into who he is.”

The “NYPD Blue” connection: Bonnie Somerville, who plays Det. Deb McKenzie, was on the final season of “NYPD Blue,” but that is not the only cop connection she has. “I grew up in a family of fireman and cops,” Somerville says. “I related to McKenzie so much coming from a family of a lot of guys and these kinds of guys. I just loved the way the pilot told the story. I loved it. The cases aren’t the most important things. You get to know their lives.”
Guest Stars

Among the guest stars for the season are William Sadler, Polly Draper, Dan Hedaya, Michael Madsen and Robert John Burke.

“Golden Boy” will launch with two special previews on Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Tuesday, March 5 at 10/9c before moving to its regular timeslot Friday, March 8 at 9/8c on CBS.